There’s plenty of Jewish-themed content in the National Center for Jewish Film’s 19th annual film festival. But it’s the diversity of genres and styles, along with stellar guest speakers, that distinguishes this niche festival running May 4-22.
The latest edition offers 19 films, three of which represent “a new breed of Holocaust film that’s brave, uncompromising, and that trusts the audience,” says Lisa Rivo, who co-directs the festival with her mother, Sharon Pucker Rivo.
“Dirty Wolves” (May 5, 5 p.m., Museum of Fine Arts), from Spanish director Simón Casal de Miguel, is a World War II thriller based on actual events about Manuela (Marian Álvarez), a young woman who works in the mines of northwest Spain harvesting wolfram (tungsten), which the Nazis loot for the Third Reich’s war machine. When the miners plan a revolt, and her sister begins helping Jews cross the border into Portugal, Manuela must decide her own fate.
“Demon” (May 13, 7 p.m., MFA) from Marcin Wrona (who died at 42, just as the film was released) is a horror thriller, as well as a bold, allegorical critique of contemporary Poland, about a man who becomes possessed by spirits after finding human bones buried in the yard of his future in-laws.
Michal Rogalski’s visually stunning “Summer Solstice” (May 19, 8 p.m., MFA) is set in the summer of 1943 in provincial Poland under German occupation. The film depicts the brutality of war and anti-Semitism as it follows the paths of two teenage boys.
Other films in the lineup include Hernán Findling and Oliver Kolker’s “Tango Glories” (May 7, 7 p.m., Institute of Contemporary Art), which whisks audiences back to Buenos Aires in the 1940s. Israeli writer-director Shemi Zahrin (“Noodle,” “Aviva My Love”) returns to the festival with “The Kind Words” (May 6, 7 p.m., MFA), about three siblings who discover a shocking family secret. Writer-director Nitzan Gilady, whose documentary “Jerusalem Is Proud to Present” showed at NCJF in 2008, makes her fiction debut with “Wedding Doll” (May 20, 7 p.m., MFA; May 22, 4:30 p.m., West Newton Cinema), about an isolated young woman who creates bridal gowns and miniature dolls out of leftover materials from the toilet paper factory where she works.
The festival is an outgrowth of the NCJF’s work as an independent nonprofit film archive, distributor, and exhibitor. Since 1976, the NCJF has recovered and restored numerous films about Jewish life that were long thought to be lost. The latest effort is “Breaking Home Ties,” a 1922 silent film that will have its New England premiere on May 12 (7:30 p.m., MFA) with live music accompaniment by composer Donald Sosin and violinist Mimi Rabson of Berklee College of Music.
For more information go to www.jewishfilm.org.